Tuesday, December 6, 2011


One of the monuments that caught my imagination is  "Crazy Horse Memorial" near Rapid City, SD, USA. The memorial is being carved in the Black Hills of South Dakota, about four miles from " Custer National Park".  It is necessary to know about "Crazy Horse" himself before dwelling on the monument being carved in his honor. 

Crazy Horse is the name of an American Indian leader. His actual name is not known but he is referred everywhere as Crazy Horse. (In America, native Indians are called "Indians".  We, Indians from Asia are called as "East Indians").  He was born in 1842 (his date of birth is not recorded) but he lived for only 35 years and was killed on 6th September 1877.  He belonged to the Lakota tribe of the Indians, but today he represents all the tribes and a hero to all of them.  The memorial, therefore, represents North American Indians of all tribes.   He cared for the elderly, the sick, the widowed and the children. He strived for preserving the values and culture of Indians.  He never signed a treaty or touched a pen in his life.    His tenacity of purpose, modest life style, unfailing courage and his tragic death set him apart and above all other leaders of his tribe.  On 6th September 1877, while at Fort Robinson in Nebraska under a flag of truce, he was stabbed in the back by an American soldier.

In reply to a derisive question by a white man "Where are your lands now?" he is reported to have stretched his left hand pointing to far away lands and replied: "My lands are where my dead are buried".

Lakota tribe chiefs decided to carve a monument in honor of such a leader in the Black Hill range, considered as sacred by the tribe.  The idea took shape in the early thirties and was a desire of the Indians to show the world and the white man that they also have heroes.  It may be recalled that the carving of American Presidents in nearby Mount Rushmore was started in 1927.  Lakota chiefs approached a sculptor of Polish origin named Korczak Ziolkowski.  Korczack was working as an assistant to Gutzon Borglum in Mount Rushmore.  Korczack selected the site for the monument and the land was purchased in the name of  "Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation".  The foundation has not accepted any Federal or State funding and the work is being carried on only on the contribution of the general public and proceeds from the memorial entrance fee and gift shop.  The Foundation has also planned a Large Museum of North America Native Indian Culture.

Some facts about the memorial give an insight into its gigantic proportions.  The memorial is in the form of Crazy Horse sitting on his horse in a riding pose and his left arm and forefinger pointing to his lands – remember his saying:  "My lands are where my dead are buried".  Upon completion the memorial will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long; it will be the largest statue in the world.  Completed head of Crazy Horse is 87 feet high or equal to a 9 story building.   Horse on which he is sitting has a head of 219 feet or equal to a 22 story building.  The head of Statue of Liberty in New York is 19 feet high.  The full  length of George Washington would have been 465 feet if it had been carved in the Rushmore memorial. More than ten million tons of rock has been removed from the hill so far.

Korzack Ziolovski was born on 6th September 1908 and it is a coincidence that crazy Horse was killed on 6 th September 1877.  Korzack started the work when he was 39 years old and died when he was 74 years old, on 20.10.1982.  He worked on the memorial for 34 years.  He married Ruth and the couple had 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls.  At one stage Korzack even started his own school to teach his children and children from nearby areas!   When he died he told his wife- "You must work on the mountain; but go slowly so that you do it right".  Today the work is carried on by his wife Ruth and seven of their ten children are also working on the monument. Recently their grand children have also joined them making them the third generation working on the memorial.  The project is already 62 years old; work is still progressing and may take many more years to complete.  Progress is slow but work always going on. The memorial is three dimensional and hence the work is involved is greater.

When the monument is completed, the following poem written by Korzack will be carved below the monument in letters three feet high so that the same can be read from a distance:

When the course of history has been told, Let these truths here carved be known:

Conscience dictates Civilizations live
and duty ours to place before the world
A chronicle which will long endure.
For like all things under us and beyond
Inevitably we must pass into oblivion.

This land of refuge to the Stranger
Was ours for countless Eons before:
Civilizations Majestic and Mighty.
Our gifts were many which we shared
and gratitude for them was known.
But later, given mu oppressed ones
Were murder, rape and sanguine war.

Looking east when invaders came,  Greedy usurpers of our heritage.

For us the past is in our hearts,  The future never to be fulfilled.

To you I give this Granite Epic, for your descendants to always know -


Thousands of tourists visit the memorial daily though the memorial is not yet complete.  Korzack's plaster of paris model, his tools and other collections are displayed in a museum at the visitor's center near the memorial. The memorial trust plans to start a North American Indian cultural center and a library. The outdoor multimedia program projects photos and animation on the 500-foot-high mountain side. 

Crazy Horse was never photographed and his picture is not available.  The monument is being carved on the basis of the description given by his contemporary Lakota chiefs.  As Korzack said, the monument is more a depiction of Crazy Horse's spirit and represents American Indians of all tribes.   The monument stands as much a testimonial to the values for which Crazy Horse stood as the vision of Korzack and dedication and efforts of Korzack-Ruth and their family.

Our visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial stated with a video presentation on the making of the monument in the theatre at the visitor's center in the memorial. After viewing the monument from the platform at the memorial, we had a round of the gift shop where many items of American Indian culture and history are displayed and available for sale.  We also visited the sculptor's house where the model used by Korzack and tools etc. are displayed.  Pictures of the memorial at different stages of creation are displayed indicating the progress in carving from time to time. 

Crazy Horse memorial is a must visit place for anyone going near South Dakota, just like the Mount Rushmore on which the heads of USA's four past Presidents is carved.

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